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Lost West Linn boys are found safe

by: COURTESY OF CCSO - Jackson Chandler and Bradley Nelson spent nearly two days in the woods after a day hike in the Table Rock area near Molalla. Searchers found them Monday afternoon.Two teens missing from West Linn High School were found Monday afternoon after spending nearly two full days near Table Rock in rural Clackamas County.

Neither boy needed medical attention, sheriff's deputies said. The boys are expected to return to their family members by 3:30 p.m., sheriff deputies said.

More than 50 search and rescue members looked for the two West Linn High School students Monday.

Jackson Chandler, 17, and Bradley Nelson, 16, were hiking in the Table Rock area of Clackamas County when the disappeared. When the two boys failed to return home Saturday evening, their parents notified authorities.

The boys were described as experienced hikers, both months away from earning their Eagle Scout merit badges with the Boy Scouts.

Deputy Nate Thompson, who helped coordinate the search and rescue efforts with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office, said a 1999 Mazda B400 pickup truck was found Sunday evening five miles east of the Table Rock trail head. Deputies made the discovery in the Lost Creek Meadow area.

Thompson said the truck was empty and belonged to one of the boys. Officials said locating the truck helped them narrow in their search for the boys. Deputies said the truck was not out of gas.

Thompson said one of the boys left behind a cellphone in the truck. When deputies looked through the phone, they found photos taken by the boys as they drove to their hike, Thompson said.

“Some of the pictures had some snow in them but by now we think most of the snow has melted,” Thompson said.

Searchers said there are many places where hikers could get lost in the rural area and the rocks are wet and slippery. Rescuers expected that the two teens would be able to survive -- as long as they're weren't hurt.

Thompson said conditions remained favorable, with the heavy rains ending late Sunday. Search-and-rescue teams spent Sunday night at Table Rock, continuing their search for the boys.

A new group headed up around 7 a.m. Monday, joined by a Clackamas County mounted-patrol horse unit, search dogs, and crews from Clackamas, Linn, Benton and Marion counties.

A search helicopter with Oregon Air National Guard arrived shortly after 9 a.m. Monday -- with another expected by the mid-afternoon.

Thompson said that, although the boys are experienced hikers, they were not prepared to spend several days in the wilderness.

“They have the essentials but this is now almost the second full day,” Thompson said.

Crews planned to continue the search until the two West Linn High School students are found.

Jim Hanchett, a family friend of the boys, works as their youth leader. Hanchett said the boys are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

“They are very comfortable outside,” Hanchett said Monday. “I’m sure they’re out praying right now for safety.”

Mark Hoyt, a local Boy Scout Master who showed up to help volunteer, said the training the boys received growing up will be instrumental.

“It could be a game changer,” Hoyt said. “If they are Eagle Scouts – or soon to become – they’ve had wilderness survival techniques taught to them.”

Hoyt said he would assume, if the boys are alive and able, they would be helping search-and-rescue workers find their location.

“They know how to be active about helping the rescuers by either a signal fire or some kind of visual aid,” Hoyt said.

Nearly three dozen LDS church members gathered early Monday at the Molalla ward to fan out around Table Mountain looking for any clue into the boys’ whereabouts.

“They know the woods, they know what to do,” said Tory Nottingham, who attends church with the boys.

Nottingham was just one of many who loaded up into a van and went out to search.

Meanwhile, classmates of Nelson and Chandler said seeing their friends' desks empty at West Linn High School was extremely difficult.

Preston Stutznegger considers himself a best friend of Nelson and Chandler.

“You can’t separate us,” Stutznegger said.

Stutznegger also attends church with Chandler and Nelson and said he found out about their disappearance on Sunday.

“They weren’t there but should have been,” Stutznegger said.

He enforced that Chandler and Nelson are experienced hikers, which made their disappearance even more difficult.

“That’s what so scary about this situation,” Stutznegger said. “They would be able to find their way out.”

Stutznegger said both boys have a deep belief in their faith.

“We just know God is out there helping them and they’ll get back safely,” Stutznegger said. “I’m sure they have been praying that they will be found.”

Brent Weisberg is with KOIN Local 6.